Tag Archives: UAS

Completely Autonomous

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) used a company-owned Avenger MQ-20A Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) to fly a military aircraft using an Artificially Intelligent (AI) pilot deployed on an operationally relevant, Open Mission Systems (OMS) software stack on September 12, 2022.

MQ-20A Avenger
GA-ASI Flies Completely Autonomous UAS Flight Using Avenger MQ-20A

The Avenger’s completely autonomous flight used an AI pilot for close to 30 minutes as a part of a cooperating live, virtual, and constructive UAS swarm. The flight was performed as part of GA-ASI’s ongoing commitment and investment into the development of advanced autonomy of AI and Machine Learning (ML) for UAS.

The flight made use of GA-ASI’s novel Reinforcement Learning (RL) architecture to develop and validate an RL agent in an operationally relevant environment. RL agents provide a new and innovative tool for next-generation military platforms to make decisions under dynamic and uncertain real-world conditions. The team flew “chase and avoid behavior” where real-time updates were made to the flight path in order to avoid adversaries using live fused tracks. Live tracks were provided to the system using the Infrared Search and Track (IRST) sensor network that was supplied by Lockheed Martin.

«The flight was a tremendous success and demonstrated a number of groundbreaking capabilities in the race to operationalize autonomy for Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA)», said GA-ASI Senior Director of Advanced Programs Michael Atwood. «It’s exciting to see how AI can be used to advance how and where we fly unmanned systems as the complexity of the battlespace increases. Our ‘chase and avoid’ agent’s ability to dynamically update the flight path as threats were identified is the first step towards building an ecosystem of collaborative autonomous combat aircraft».

TacIRST is a new class of multifunction, embeddable sensor system with an open architecture. It was developed by Lockheed Martin to provide a range of capabilities for both crewed and uncrewed aircraft. «We anticipated the need for passive, long-range threat detection by autonomous aircraft and are proud to see this capability integrated successfully on the Avenger», said Terry Hoehn, Director of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Threat Warning Systems. «We look forward to further collaboration and testing with GA-ASI».

The team used a government-furnished CODE autonomy engine and the government-standard OMS messaging protocol to enable communication between the RL agent and the Tactical IRST. By utilizing government standards, such as CODE and OMS, rapid integration of autonomy for collaborative combat aircraft becomes possible.

General Dynamics Mission Systems also supplied key technologies to the flight. The mission computer used to host the OMS software is part of the Digital Backbone Node (DBN) family of systems from General Dynamics Mission Systems. The DBN architecture enables rapid and secure deployment of evolving capabilities needed for CCA through application of the latest government open architectures, high-performance computing, advanced cooling, and a high-speed backplane with multi-level security to maximize battlefield collaboration between platforms.

This flight was another in an ongoing series of autonomous flights performed by GA-ASI using internal research and development funding to prove out important AI/ML concepts for advanced UAS.

Future Fights

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is pleased to announce its new category of future-forward Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), focused on information dominance and airspace supremacy. Leveraging three decades of experience across millions of successful combat flight hours, the new Evolution line of advanced UAS joins GA-ASI’s existing Predator-class and Mojave-class aircraft in delivering next-generation UAS that lead the pack in advanced, affordable, attritable and autonomous combat power.

GA-ASI Announces Evolution Class of UAS for the Future Fights of Tomorrow

The name Evolution refers to the evolutionary path GA-ASI has followed as it chartered the realm of unmanned aircraft through its rich, 30-year history of UAS innovation, designing for the future, and the force-multiplying power UAS provide modern warfighters. In the past three decades, GA-ASI has launched more than 25 UAS variants, beginning with the Gnat in 1992.

Evolution establishes a third aircraft class within GA-ASI, joining the well-known Predator line and recently announced Mojave line of expeditionary UAS featuring Short-TakeOff and Landing (STOL) capability. Evolution includes the development of GA-ASI’s next-generation UAS solutions designed to meet the needs of the U.S. Air Force’s vision for its future force, as well as new UAS concepts such as Defender, Sparrowhawk and the recently announced Gambit.

«We’re continuing to grow and respond to the rapidly changing world», said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. «As we celebrate our 30-year anniversary as a company, our new Evolution-series aircraft will merge our unique heritage of advanced and affordable UAS technologies with innovative technologies for the future. We’re looking ahead to new concepts and never-before-seen aircraft that meet the needs of our customers today and tomorrow».

Flight Trials

Schiebel Aircraft and Areté Associates, successfully showcased the CAMCOPTER S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS) combined with Areté’s Pushbroom Imaging Lidar for Littoral Surveillance (PILLS) sensor to the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Schiebel CAMCOPTER S-100 successfully completes flight trials for U.S. Navy

In a combined demonstration sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) on a commercial vessel off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Schiebel and Areté demonstrated the CAMCOPTER S-100 and its capabilities, as well as Areté’s Push-broom Imaging Lidar for Littoral Surveillance (PILLS) system.

PILLS enables hydrographic mapping of ocean littoral spaces with a low Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) sensor that easily integrates into the S-100. PILLS has multiple military and commercial applications.

Hans Georg Schiebel, Chairman of the Schiebel Group, said: «We are proud that we could successfully showcase the outstanding capabilities and data-gathering features of our CAMCOPTER S-100 to the US Navy. Globally, we operate extensively on land and at sea and we are confident that our unmanned solution is also the right fit for the U.S. Navy».


About the CAMCOPTER S-100

Schiebel’s CAMCOPTER S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS) is an operationally proven capability for military and civilian applications. The Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) UAS requires no prepared area or supporting equipment to enable launch and recovery. It operates by day and by night, under adverse weather conditions, with a beyond line-of-sight capability out to 108 NM/124 miles/200 km, over land and sea. Its carbon fibre and titanium fuselage provides capacity for a wide range of payload/endurance combinations up to a service ceiling of 5,500 m/18,000 feet. In a typical configuration, the CAMCOPTER S-100 carries a 34-kg/75-lbs. payload up to 10 hours and is powered with AVGas or JP-5 heavy fuel. High-definition payload imagery is transmitted to the control station in real time. In addition to its standard GPS waypoint or manual navigation, the S-100 can successfully operate in environments where GPS is not available, with missions planned and controlled via a simple point-and-click graphical user interface. The high-tech unmanned helicopter is backed by Schiebel’s excellent customer support and training services.

First Flight

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Gremlins program has completed the first flight test of its X-61A vehicle. The test in late November at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah included one captive-carry mission aboard a C-130A Hercules and an airborne launch and free flight lasting just over an hour-and-a-half.

Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019

The goal for this third phase of the Gremlins program is completion of a full-scale technology demonstration series featuring the air recovery of multiple, low-cost, reusable Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs), or «Gremlins». Safety, reliability, and affordability are the key objectives for the system, which would launch groups of UASs from multiple types of military aircraft while out of range from adversary defenses. Once Gremlins complete their mission, the transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.

The team met all objectives of the test in November, including gathering data on operation and performance, air and ground-based command and control systems, and flight termination. A parachute anomaly occurred in a recovery sequence that is specific to the test series and not part of the operational plan. The incident resulted in the loss of the test vehicle, one of five in the program. Four vehicles remain operational and available for the test series, which will continue in 2020.

«The vehicle performed well, giving us confidence we are on the right path and can expect success in our follow-on efforts», said Scott Wierzbanowski, the program manager for Gremlins in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. «We got a closer look at vehicle performance for launch, rate capture, engine start, and transition to free flight. We had simulated the performance on the ground, and have now fully tested them in the air. We also demonstrated a variety of vehicle maneuvers that helped validate our aerodynamic data».

The next step for the program is a full evaluation of the test data, as well as to understand any issues related to the failure for the main parachute to deploy. The team anticipates the second flight test at Dugway in the spring 2020 timeframe to remain on track.

The C-130 Hercules is the demonstration platform for the Gremlins program, but Wierzbanowski says the Services could easily modify the system for another transport aircraft or other major weapons system. Gremlins also can incorporate several types of sensors up to 150 pounds/68 kg, and easily integrate technologies to address different types of stakeholders and missions.

The U.S. Air Force designated the Gremlins air vehicle as X-61A in August in recognition of the technical challenges associated with the program.

A Dynetics-led team is the performer for the Phase 3 demonstration series.

Gremlins X-61A Maiden Test Flight

High-Energy Laser

Raytheon Company will deploy two prototype high energy laser weapon systems to troops overseas under a U.S. Air Force contract. The Air Force experimentation includes 12 months of in-field operation against unmanned aerial systems and operator training.

Raytheon developing advanced laser systems for US Air Force deployment

Raytheon’s High-Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) uses pure energy to detect, identify and instantly take down drones. It can target a single drone with precision. The HELWS is paired with Raytheon’s Multi-spectral Targeting System. It uses invisible beams of light to defeat hostile Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs). Mounted on a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle, the system detects, identifies, tracks and engages drones.

«Every day, there’s another story about a rogue drone incident», said Stefan Baur, vice president of Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems. «These threats aren’t going away, and in many instances, shooting them with a high energy laser weapon system is the most effective and safest way to bring them down».

The contract follows successful demonstrations of Raytheon’s directed energy systems for the Air Force and the U.S. Army.

First Evacuation

Dangerous frontline operations call for a safe and efficient method to locate and evacuate wounded personnel. To address this critical need and help save lives, Lockheed Martin, Kaman Aerospace, and Neya Systems demonstrated the first ever collaborative unmanned air and ground casualty evacuation using the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Control Segment (UCS) Architecture and K-MAX cargo helicopter on March 26, 2015.

A ground controller uses a ruggedized laptop with command and control software to develop and upload a mission flight plan to the aircraft’s on-board Mission Management Computer (MMC) prior to launch
A ground controller uses a ruggedized laptop with command and control software to develop and upload a mission flight plan to the aircraft’s on-board Mission Management Computer (MMC) prior to launch

During the demonstration, a distress call led ground operators to send an unmanned ground vehicle to assess the area and injured party. The ground operators used control stations that communicated with one another using the UAS Control Segment Architecture. Upon successful identification, the ground operators requested airlift by unmanned K-MAX of one individual who was injured. From the ground, the K-MAX operators used a tablet to determine the precise location and a safe landing area to provide assistance to the team. The injured team member was strapped into a seat on the side of the unmanned K-MAX, which then flew that individual to safety.

«This application of the unmanned K-MAX enables day or night transport of wounded personnel to safety without endangering additional lives», said Jay McConville, director of business development for Unmanned Integrated Solutions at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training. «Since the K-MAX returned from a nearly three-year deployment with the U.S. Marine Corps, we’ve seen benefits of and extended our open system design incorporating the UCS Architecture, which allows rapid integration of new applications across industry to increase the safety of operations, such as casualty evacuation, where lives are at stake».

«Neya is continuing to develop advanced technologies for human robot interfaces for complex platforms and multi-robot missions», said Dr. Parag Batavia, president of Neya. «Our and Lockheed Martin’s use of the Unmanned Aircraft System Control Segment Architecture greatly sped up integration of our respective technologies, resulting in a comprehensive capability that can be ultimately transitioned to the warfighter very efficiently».

Portable antennae for line-ofsight and satellite-based beyond line-of-sight data links maintain continuous connectivity with the unmanned K-MAX anywhere in the world
Portable antennae for line-ofsight and satellite-based beyond line-of-sight data links maintain continuous connectivity with the unmanned K-MAX anywhere in the world

While deployed with the U.S. Marine Corps from 2011 to 2014, unmanned K-MAX successfully conducted resupply operations, delivering more than 4.5 million pounds of cargo during more than 1,900 missions. Manufactured by Kaman and outfitted with an advanced mission suite by Lockheed Martin, unmanned K-MAX is engineered with a twin-rotor design that maximizes lift capability in the most challenging environments, from the mountainous Alps to the Persian Gulf. Its advanced autonomy allows unmanned K-MAX to work day and night, in all-weather, even when manned assets are unable to fly. Lockheed Martin continues to extend and mature the K-MAX helicopter’s onboard technology and autonomy for defense operations, as well as demonstrate its use for civil and commercial applications.

With five decades of experience in unmanned and robotic systems for air, land and sea, Lockheed Martin’s unmanned systems are engineered to help our military, civil and commercial customers accomplish their most difficult challenges today and in the future.

Kaman Aerospace is a division Kaman Corporation, which was founded in 1945 by aviation pioneer Charles H. Kaman. Neya Systems, LLC is a small business unmanned systems company in Wexford, Pennsylvania. Founded in 2009, Neya focuses on developing interoperable solutions to the world’s hardest robotics problems.

The MMC communicates the ground controller’s objectives to the FCC (autopilot). FCC dual redundancy provides high reliability
The MMC communicates the ground controller’s objectives to the FCC (autopilot). FCC dual redundancy provides high reliability


K-MAX Unmanned Aerial System

Lockheed Martin Corporation and Kaman Aerospace Corporation have successfully transformed Kaman’s proven K-MAX power lift helicopter into an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) capable of autonomous or remote controlled cargo delivery. Its mission: battlefield cargo resupply for the U.S. military.

The K-MAX UAS is a transformational technology for a fast-moving battlefield that will enable Marines to deliver supplies either day or night to precise locations without risk of losing life in the process. The aircraft can fly at higher altitudes with a larger payload than any other rotary wing UAS. With its four-hook carousel, the K-MAX UAS can also deliver more cargo to more locations in one flight

The team has flown the K-MAX UAS more than 750 hours in autonomous mode since joining forces in 2007. The rugged system can lift and deliver a full 6,000 lbs/2,722 kg of cargo at sea level and more than 4,000 pounds/1,814 kg at 15,000 feet/4,572 m density altitude.

The K-MAX continues to exceed expectations as an unmanned platform. The aircraft has met all unmanned milestones to date and continues to excel in the commercial logging and firefighting industries. The aircraft will remain optionally piloted for ease of National Airspace Operations, occasional manned mission flexibility, ferry flights, rapid integration of new mission equipment, and allow rapid return-to-service activities.

The manned version of the K-MAX is used for repetitive lift operations by commercial operators for the construction and logging industries. To date, the fleet has accumulated more than 255,000 flight hours since 1994.

Twin counter-rotating, intermeshing main rotors eliminate the need for a tail rotor drive system
Twin counter-rotating, intermeshing main rotors eliminate the need for a tail rotor drive system


Technical characteristics

Weights and Measurements
Max gross weight (with external load) 12,000 lbs/5,443 kg
Max take-off weight 7,000 lbs/3,175 kg
Empty weight 5,145 lbs/2,334 kg
Useful load 6,855 lbs/3,109 kg
Cargo hook capacity 6,000 lbs/2,722 kg
Lift Performance – ISA (International Standard Atmosphere) +15°C (59°F)
Sea Level 6,000 lbs/2,722 kg
5,000 feet/1,524 m 5,663 lbs/2,574 kg
10,000 feet/3,048 m 5,163 lbs/2,347 kg
15,000 feet/4,572 m 4,313 lbs/1,960 kg
Hover Performance – 4,000 feet/1,219 m, 35°C (95°F)
Hover IGE (In Ground Effect) 12,000 lbs/5,443 kg
Hover OGE (Out of Ground Effect) 11,500 lbs/5,216 kg
Model Honeywell T53-17 gas turbine
Thermodynamic rating 1,800 shaft horsepower
Maximum Airspeed
Without external load 100 knots/115 mph/185.2 km/h
With external load 80 knots/92 mph/148.2 km/h
Fuel System
Total usable fuel 219.5 gal/831 liters
Average fuel consumption 85 gal/hr/321.7 l/hr
Jet A fuel 557.6 lbs/hr/252.9 kg/hr
Maximum endurance 12+ hr
Maximum range 1,150 miles/1,852 km (est)
Maximum speed with external load 80 knots/92 mph/148.2 km/h
Maximum speed without external load 100 knots/115 mph/185.2 km/h
Internal fuel endurance 2 hr 41 min
Range with external load 246 miles/396.3 km
Range without external load 307 miles/494.5 km
Approved fuels Jet A/A-1, JP-5
Jet B/JP-4


Lockheed Martin-Kaman’s unmanned helicopter successfully completing the Navy’s Quick Reaction Assessment


The rugged K-MAX multi-mission helicopter that Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace have transformed into an Unmanned Aerial Truck proves why it is the best for unmanned battlefield cargo resupply missions


In January, 2010, the Unmanned K-MAX helicopter demonstrated autonomous and remote control flight over both line-of-sight and satellite-based beyond line-of-sight data link


TERN – Phase 2

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has awarded prime contracts for Phase 2 of TERN (Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node), a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR). The goal of TERN is to give forward-deployed small ships the ability to serve as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude, long-endurance Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs).

Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node: Artist's Concept
Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node: Artist’s Concept

These systems could provide long-range Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and other capabilities over greater distances and time periods than is possible with current assets, including manned and unmanned helicopters. Further, a capacity to launch and retrieve aircraft on small ships would reduce the need for ground-based airstrips, which require significant dedicated infrastructure and resources. The two prime contractors selected by DARPA to work on new systems are AeroVironment, Inc., and Northrop Grumman Corp.

«To offer the equivalent of land-based UAS capabilities from small-deck ships, our Phase 2 performers are each designing a new Unmanned Air System intended to enable two previously unavailable capabilities:

  • the ability for a UAS to take off and land from very confined spaces in elevated sea states;
  • the ability for such a UAS to transition to efficient long-duration cruise missions», said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager.

«Tern’s goal is to develop breakthrough technologies that the U.S. Navy could realistically integrate into the future fleet and make it much easier, quicker and less expensive for the Defense Department to deploy persistent ISR and strike capabilities almost anywhere in the world», added Dan Patt.

The first two phases of the TERN program focus on preliminary design and risk reduction. In Phase 3, one performer will be selected to build a full-scale demonstrator TERN system for initial ground-based testing. That testing would lead to a full-scale, at-sea demonstration of a prototype UAS on an at-sea platform with deck size similar to that of a destroyer or other surface combat vessel.

Unfortunately, DARPA has restricted the bidding teams from revealing most details about their aircraft proposals, said Stephen Trimble, Flightglobal.com reporter.

The agency has released an image of an artist’s concept for a notional TERN vehicle. It reveals a tail-sitter, twin-engined design resembling the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) built by General Atomics and used primarily by the United States Air Force (USAF) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The artist’s concept demonstrates a sharply dihedral mid-wing and the Predator’s familiar anhedral stabilisers. The new vehicle is shown equipped with a visual sensor.

A dedicated launch and recovery system for the TERN UAS is not visible on either vessel shown in the image. A tail-sitter TERN is shown perched however on the aft helicopter deck of the destroyer, suggesting no catapults or nets are required to launch and retrieve the aircraft.

Due Regard Radar

According to Marina Malenic, Jane’s Defence Weekly reporter, the U.S. Navy (USN) plans to add a Due Regard Radar to its Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft after it is deployed to the fleet.

U.S. Navy's First Triton Unmanned Aircraft
U.S. Navy’s First Triton Unmanned Aircraft

The radar «will be an upgrade to the initial capability in the 2020 time frame», said Sean Burke, the programme manager for the navy’s persistent maritime unmanned aircraft systems programme office. Due Regard Radar would allow «non co-operative» detection of other aircraft.

The name «Due Regard» comes from an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirement that military aircraft be flown with «Due Regard for the safety of navigation of civil aircraft». Burke said the navy will begin conducting Triton sensor test flights within the next three weeks and delivering the aircraft to the fleet at the end of 2017 and early 2018.

USN officials have previously said Triton will come equipped with a Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). Both TCAS and ADS-B are transponder-based systems that require other aircraft to have such systems so that they can «see» and avoid one another.

Though neither TCAS nor ADS-B meets the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) requirements for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) sense-and-avoid on its own, the USN and the FAA are working with other international regulatory bodies to develop a plan whereby they can be used in conjunction.

Previously known as the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS), the Triton is a derivative of Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk being developed to provide the USN with persistent maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) as a companion to the Boeing P-8A Poseidon manned maritime surveillance aircraft. It will operate in US national airspace, as well as international, foreign, civil, and military airspace.

Based on the proven Global Hawk UAS, Triton incorporates a reinforced airframe and wing, along with de-icing and lightning protection systems
Based on the proven Global Hawk UAS, Triton incorporates a reinforced airframe and wing, along with de-icing and lightning protection systems


MQ-4C Triton

Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) provides real-time Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance over vast ocean and coastal regions. Supporting missions up to 24 hours, the high-altitude UAS is equipped with a sensor suite that provides a 360-degree view of its surroundings at a radius of over 2,000 nautical miles/3,704 km.

Triton builds on elements of the Global Hawk UAS while incorporating reinforcements to the airframe and wing, along with de-icing and lightning protection systems. These capabilities allow the aircraft to descend through cloud layers to gain a closer view of ships and other targets at sea when needed. The current sensor suite allows ships to be tracked over time by gathering information on their speed, location and classification.

Built to support the U.S. Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program, Triton will support a wide range of intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance missions, maritime patrol and search and rescue. The Navy’s program of record calls for 68 aircraft to be built.

Triton will also be equipped with a sensor suite that provides a 360-degree view of its surroundings and allows ships to be tracked over time by gathering information on their speed, location and classification
Triton will also be equipped with a sensor suite that provides a 360-degree view of its surroundings and allows ships to be tracked over time by gathering information on their speed, location and classification


Key Features

  • Provides persistent maritime ISR at a mission radius of 2,000 NM/3,704 km; 24 hours/7 days per week with 80% Effective Time On Station (ETOS)
  • Land-based air vehicle and sensor command and control
  • Afloat Level II payload sensor data via line-of-sight
  • Dual redundant flight controls and surfaces
  • 51,000-hour airframe life
  • Due Regard Radar for safe separation
  • Anti/de-ice, bird strike, and lightning protection
  • Communications bandwidth management
  • Commercial off-the-shelf open architecture mission control system
  • Net-ready interoperability solution
Built for the U.S. Navy, Triton will support a wide range of missions including maritime patrol and search and rescue
Built for the U.S. Navy, Triton will support a wide range of missions including maritime patrol and search and rescue


Payload (360-degree Field of Regard)

Multi-Function Active Sensor Active Electronically Steered Array (MFAS AESA) radar:

  • 2D AESA;
  • Maritime and air-to-ground modes;
  • Long-range detection and classification of targets.

MTS-B multi-spectral targeting system:

  • Electro-optical/infrared;
  • Auto-target tracking;
  • High resolution at multiple field-of-views;
  • Full motion video.

AN/ZLQ-1 Electronic Support Measures:

  • All digital;
  • Specific Emitter Identification.

Automatic Identification System:

  • Provides information received from VHF broadcasts on maritime vessel movements.
The Navy’s program of record calls for 68 aircraft to be fielded
The Navy’s program of record calls for 68 aircraft to be fielded



Wingspan:                                                 130.9 feet/39.9 m

Length:                                                         47.6 feet/14.5 m

Height:                                                         15.4 feet/4.6 m

Gross Take-Off Weight:                     32,250 lbs/14,628 kg

Maximum Internal Payload:           3,200 lbs/1,452 kg

Maximum External Payload:          2,400 lbs/1,089 kg

Self-Deploy:                                              8,200 NM/15,186 km

Maximum Altitude:                              56,500 feet/17,220 m

Maximum Velocity:                              331 knots True Air Speed (TAS)/ 381 mph/613 km/h

Maximum Endurance:                        24 hours


MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system flies from Palmdale, California, to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland


Italian HammerHead

The Italian Air Force will be the launch customer of the P.1HH HammerHead Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), a state-of-the-art multipurpose UAS, designed and developed by Piaggio Aerospace. This decision was announced at IDEX 2015 in Abu Dhabi, in presence of the Italian Air Force Chief, Lt. Gen. Pasquale Preziosa. Piaggio Aerospace will deliver three UAS systems – 6 air vehicles and 3 ground control stations – complete with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) configuration to the Italian Air Force in early 2016.

The first flight marks the start of an initial trials phase for the P.1HH, which is expected to total about 150 flight hours and is due to be completed in the summer
The first flight marks the start of an initial trials phase for the P.1HH, which is expected to total about 150 flight hours and is due to be completed in the summer

Carlo Logli, CEO of Piaggio Aerospace, said: «We are truly delighted about this decision. It confirms the strong partnership we have with the Italian Air Force and showcases the P.1HH as one of the most advanced systems to enter the market. We are grateful for the continued support of our partner Finmeccanica-Selex ES, the Italian Ministry of Defence, our shareholders and the valuable teamwork with the Italian hi-tech industry». The P.1HH platform is a derivative of the very successful Piaggio Aerospace P.180, the fastest twin turboprop aircraft in the world, with a proven service record of over 20 years and more than 800,000 flight hours.

The P.1HH HammerHead is designed with a variety of operational capabilities that can be tailored to specific customer requirements, enabling the UAS to perform a wide range of ISR missions. Developed in partnership with Finmeccanica-Selex ES, the P.1HH HammerHead UAS is currently going through a comprehensive development and certification flight test campaign, conducted at the Trapani Birgi Italian Air Force base.


THE P.1HH HammerHead UAS

The Piaggio Aerospace P.1HH HammerHead is a new, state-of-the-art Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) designed for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions whose combination of performance and operational characteristics is at the very top end of the UAS MALE category. An unmatched combination of range, wide operative speeds, fast climb gradient, high operative ceiling and variety of payloads, provides end-users with a powerful yet flexible Defense System that outperforms other Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Systems, identifying the P.1HH HammerHead as a Super MALE UAS.

A second P.1HH prototype is due to join the test-fleet later this year
A second P.1HH prototype is due to join the test-fleet later this year

P.1HH HammerHead, is suited for a wide range of ISR, Defense and Security missions, and defines an unsurpassed mission role flexibility and sets a new frontier of CONcept of OPerationS (CONOPS) for Defense. The P.1HH HammerHead Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is derived from the successful Piaggio Aerospace P.180 Avanti II business aviation aircraft, the fastest twin turboprop aircraft in the world with a proven, uneventful, service record of more than 20 years and 800,000 flight hours.

The design of the P.1HH HammerHead aims at being a unique ISR platform, able to climb up to 45,000 feet/13,716 m, loitering quietly at low speed (135 KTAS/155 mph/250 km/h) for an endurance of up to 16 flight hours and dashing at very high speed (up to 395 KTAS/454 mph/731 km/h) to target. Its capabilities include being able to host several payload combinations and to perform multiple missions: aerial, land, coastal, maritime and offshore security, COMINT/ELINT (COMmunications INTelligence/ELectronic INTelligence), electronic warfare as well as other roles.

Based on the P.180 Avanti II proven architecture and technologies (tested and certified for passenger transportation) and, on the outstanding experience and capability of Selex ES in the mission management systems for manned/unmanned ISR, P.1HH HammerHead is designed to be an all-weather aircraft with twin turboprop propulsion providing maximum safety, operational reliability and the lowest incident rate in its category.

The P.1HH HammerHead design is fully compliant with STANAG USAR 4671 (Standardization Agreement UAV Systems Airworthiness Requirements 4671) standards to fly in both restricted and unrestricted flight areas, according to the relevant authorities’ permission.


The UAV Platform

The P.1HH HammerHead UAV platform has an aerodynamic configuration largely similar to P.180 Avanti II. This is very versatile thanks to its unique patented 3 Lifting Surfaces Configuration (3 LSC) and high aspect ratio laminar wings, adapted for the P.1HH design by moderately increasing the wing span to sustain larger vehicle masses and allocating a quick detachable joint to the outer wings for rapid aerial deployment of the UAS in remote areas. Being based on a certified Mach 0.70 aircraft, P.1HH HammerHead is the fastest MALE.

The HammerHead Demo undertook between 40 and 50 flights in preparation for Prototype 001's maiden flight
The HammerHead Demo undertook between 40 and 50 flights in preparation for Prototype 001’s maiden flight

The P.1HH HammerHead power plant has two, highly reliable Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B turbine engines integrated with low noise 5 blade scimitar propellers. The Power Plant is controlled by two Engine Interface Units that receive commands from the Flight Control Computer (FCC) to drive the turbine and the propeller governors while managing engine and propeller data. A large upper fuselage tank, supported by a robust yet efficient carry through beam, is integrated to provide the required fuel quantity for long range and endurance.

A smart fuel system is designed to control and minimize the movement of the aircraft center of gravity for maximum operational flexibility in a wide range of mission payloads. The triple redundant 28VDC electrical generation and distribution system supplies energy for all aircraft functions with adequate operational reserve through the envelope, and fully satisfies large power demands from a variety of power consuming payloads. P.1HH HammerHead inherits proven Piaggio Aerospace P.180 aircraft general systems, e.g.: Anti Ice, with hot air on main wing, electrical on forward wing and pneumatic boots on the engine nacelle inlet. It also has a hydraulic dual pressure system for landing gear extensions/retraction and brake activation, plus other ancillary systems like fire extinguishing for the engine nacelle area. These subsystems are all commanded by the Vector Control & Management System (VCMS), via fail-safe Remote Interface Units.

The large but low drag P.180 aircraft fuselage provides capability for aerodynamically effective payload arrangements, with plenty of available volume from the variety of Line Replaceable Unit’s (LRU’s) equipment, sensors and communication equipment comfortably located inside the fuselage.


The UAV Brain

P.1HH HammerHead features a technologically advanced Vehicle Control & Management System (VCMS) that when combined with the advanced Mission Management System (MMS) manages the UAV and its mission specific equipment.

The company announced that the first full prototype of the P.1HH HammerHead UAV made its first flight on 22 December
The company announced that the first full prototype of the P.1HH HammerHead UAV made its first flight on 22 December

The VCMS, commanded from the Ground Control Station (GCS) via an airborne datalink system, conducts the vehicle commanding aerodynamic control surfaces and manages on-board equipment with a triple redundant Flight Control Computer (FCC) system and multiple remote multi-lane Servo Interface Units (SIU), developed to achieve the required level of safety and mission reliability.

Position, attitude and air data are guaranteed by triple redundant Inertial Sensors (INS) and Air Data Probes (ADS), mounted in the VCMS. P.1HH HammerHead VCMS features an Automatic Take-Off and Landing (ATOL) system served with dual redundant external sensors for required reliability and safety.

All VCMS LRU’s are installed inside the large volume fuselage, in a very protected optimized operative environment, in a specific lay-out that provides zonal separation and temperature analysis to achieve a state of the art operative temperature range, highest VCMS reliability and finally, P.1HH HammerHead safety. Very easy access is provided through the large entry door and a multitude of access doors for the best maintainability within the segment.


Ground Control Station & Datalink System

An advanced Ground Control Station (GCS) is the P.1HH HammerHead UAS’s command & control center. The GCS is located in an autonomous shelter that hosts crew, equipment and consoles necessary to manage three UAVs (two operational, one in transfer mode) and their related Payloads.

An unmanned version of the P.180 first flew in November 2013
An unmanned version of the P.180 first flew in November 2013

The Crew processes functions necessary to execute tactical unmanned missions and stand-off surveillance unmanned missions, remotely commanding and controlling through VCMS and MMS the on-board surveillance system with an advanced human/machine interface integrating display and control system. The GCS is provided with multiple Ground Data Terminals (GDT) that when coupled with the associated Air Data Terminals (ADT) on the vehicles provide Line Of Sight (LOS) and Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) Link for Vehicle and Payload Control.

The Links System allows LOS & BLOS air vehicle command & control and payload digital encrypted data transmission via redundant, multi-frequency, high bandwidth RF links and via Ku/Ka Band Satellite Communications (SATCOM).

Mission data is eventually relayed to the headquarters either via ground communication systems or eventually with the same LOS/BLOS data link.

VCMS/GCS is developed and supplied by Selex ES thanks to their long experience in Avionics for many different platforms and Unmanned Aerial System.


Mission Management System

The P.1HH HammerHead UAS Mission Management System is based on Selex ES skyISTAR innovative technology, which redefines the concept of patrolling and ISR missions, to encompass threats that range from terrorist attacks to illegal immigration, as well as protection of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), infrastructures and critical sites.

Known as Prototype 001, the first aircraft flew from the Trapani-Birgi military base in Sicily, performing a shakedown flight over the Mediterranean Sea at varying speeds and altitudes that also checked out the basic functions of its ground station
Known as Prototype 001, the first aircraft flew from the Trapani-Birgi military base in Sicily, performing a shakedown flight over the Mediterranean Sea at varying speeds and altitudes that also checked out the basic functions of its ground station

The on board airborne Mission Management System (MMS) manages sensors, video and data, communications, and ISR functions and it is capable of recording video and mission data.

The MMS is modular and reconfigurable with effective and fully integrated open system architecture possessing significant growth capability.

Sensor fusion technology, data management and exploitation features of skyISTAR enable highly effective border control, wide area surveillance, targeted surveillance environmental and disaster control missions.


Main Competitive Characteristics

  • Capable to perform ISR – COMINT/ELINT – SIGINT missions
  • Twin turboprop, all weather, proven system architecture and technologies
  • Vehicle Control Management System compliant with STANAG USAR 4671 standards with Automatic Take Off and Landing
  • Full redundancy – Safety requirements Cat. Event Prob. 10-6 FH, SW Critical functions DO178B level B
  • System is ground/sea/air transportable (removable wings)
  • 24 hours deployment capability
  • LOS/BLOS wide narrow band Datalink

Unpaired combination of performances for range and operational speed

Operational Ceiling:                               45,000 feet/13,716 m

MMO (Mach Max Operating):          0.70 Mach

Climb to 35,000 feet/10,668 m in 20 minutes at maximum weight

Loiter at 135 KTAS/155 mph/250 km/h (1 to 3 NM/1.8 to 5.5 km turning radius)

Maximum speed up to 395 KTAS/454 mph/731 km/h

Endurance: 16 hours plus, with ISR payload

Range: up to 4,400 NM/8,149 km

Medium Altitude Long Endurance ISR Unmanned Aerial System
Medium Altitude Long Endurance ISR Unmanned Aerial System


Technical Specifications


Span:                                                           15.600 m/51.18 feet

Length:                                                       14.408 m/47.27 feet

Height:                                                        3.980 m/13.05 feet


Wing:                                                           18.00 m2/193.75 feet2

Horizontal Tail:                                      3.834 m2/41.27 feet2

Vertical Tail:                                            4.731 m2/50.92 feet2

Forward Wing (Exposed):               1.300 m2/13.99 feet2


Max Take Off Weight (MTOW): 6,146 kg/13,550 lbs


2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B, 850 sph/634 kW, ISA (International Standard Atmosphere), sea level

Hartzell five blade low noise propellers counter rotating

Mission system

Selex ES SkyISTAR with

  • FLIR EO/IR StarSafire 380HD
  • Seaspray 7300 E Radar


Maximum speed:                                 395 KTAS/454 mph/731 km/h

Cruise speed:                                         320 KTAS/368 mph/592 km/h

Loiter speed:                                          135 KTAS/155 mph/250 km/h

Max range:                                               4,400 NM/8,149 km

Max endurance (500 lbs/227 kg payload):                 16 hours

Endurance (500 lbs/227 kg payload) at 1,500 km from takeoff & landing base:                                           10.5 hours

Service ceiling:                                       45,000 feet/13,716 m